Last day in Kyoto

Kyoto station

I kind of forgot to stop by the station until today. I somehow managed to avoid it completely, thanks to there not being many road signs that point to the station. This morning I woke up, bought breakfast at the conbini and ate it the riverside, which is an incredible place to hang out. There's always something to see or to do. Joggers, families playing, salarymen jumping the rocks in the river to get to their job 1 minute quicker than by taking the bridge, the nice old-fashioned houses being renovated by a construction crew, young people practicing their instruments, and a lot more. No matter what time of day there's always something to do. It's become my favorite area for the past two and a half days.

After finishing my breakfast I randomcycled to the station, noting suddenly just how many foreigners there are in Kyoto. I cycled along some big streets and found more foreigners, changed my route to include smaller streets and roads half-hidden between buildings, and I still saw a lot of foreigners. No matter where I went, there seemed no end to the stream of foreigners approaching me. Most foreigners who have lived in Japan for a longer period of time may recognize this phenomenon, but us 'native foreigners' tend to dislike seeing other foreigners in Japan. The foreign presence bummed me out for a bit and I didn't do much for the rest of the day except relax and surf the net.

Nearing the end of the day I planned to replace my brake blocks, as scheduled. Things did of course not turn out to be as easy as that, as somehow the new brake blocks I mounted at the rear somehow didn't fit properly. Seeing as the old ones were really worn out I went to a bicycle shop to have it fixed. Result: a new wire to the rear brakes: 1800 yen. Guh. And it's still not perfect because the wire hits the fender when I brake, possibly bending the fender and breaking it. We'll see how that goes. This bikeshopguy also pointed out to me that my bicycle really sucks, and every important part needs replacing, starting with the wheels. He said that the way my wheel connects to the tire is really bad, and may cause a puncture real soon. If it was up to him he'd replace the gears, wheels, tires and everything else, but I said no thanks, and I'll see how for I get in my current state. At least the brakes are fixed and fresh again.

Hanging out at the riverside

During the day I very much got the feeling that staying 2 days (3 nights) is nearing my limit, and I really want to continue cycling. Very much like the anime Kino no Tabi, stay at a place three days and then move on. Despite this feeling of wanting to move on I'm really feeling comfortable right now, here at the youth hostel. After two days of cycling around Kyoto I think I'm starting to understand the city, and I'm figuring out which things are where and how they're connected, and somehow it's starting to make sense.

The youth hostel's been the best so far, and staying for three days gave me a good chance to get to know people a bit better, and for them ask me more things other than the "So you're cycling, does your butt hurt?" standard conversation. I talked about crime in Japan with two middle-aged ladies today, discussed touring by bicycle with my roommate, who happens to be a tough Spanish guy who is also cycling Japan by bicycle after having come from New Zealand, and made conversation with the youth hostel ladies in the evening. Thanks to this I got a nice pointer to this website called CouchSurfing, which is (to me) surprisingly popular in Japan. I'll have to try that out some time.

Tomorrow I'm off towards the west to a place called Sasayama to meet a friend who kindly offered to let me stay at his place for a night. It looks like it'll be a mountainous road, but it's in the right direction and for a good cause, so it's worth it. After that I have yet to decide whether to take the 'normal' path along the southern coast towards Himeji, Okayama and Hiroshima, or to go crazy and crossover into Shikoku, cycle the hell out of Shikoku and catch a ferry towards the middle of Kyushu, cutting at least two days off of my trip. If I do that I'll have to skip Hiroshima and the Dutch theme park near Nagasaki, which were two of my destinations for this trip. The upside is that I'll be in the countryside taking less busy roads and there's more chance of adventure. I'm 90% sure that I'll take the road to Hiroshima, but I might be in a crazy mood and end up doing Shikoku instead. We'll see.

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